Time For Some Hard Conversations

I’m wondering this week if we’re having enough difficult conversations.

Horrible images on the news, protests in the streets, a growing awareness — if we didn’t know it before — that all is certainly not right with the world.

All of this should be sparking some very difficult conversations.

I don’t care who you are or where you fall in the landscape of our society, there are people on your Facebook page who are shocking you with what they’re posting. There are articles you’re reading that are making you uncomfortable — mad, even. You’re hearing things from people close to you that are touching deep and painful places in your own heart.

It’s past time for some difficult, difficult conversations.

difficult conversationsSome feel paralyzed by the overwhelming problems our society is facing. Some prefer to turn off the television, cover their ears, and live like nothing is wrong. Some of us are surrounding ourselves with people who think like we do, working hard to convince ourselves we’re right.

All of those responses limit difficult conversations, keep our interactions distant, ideological, and (mostly) polite.

And we can’t do that anymore.

It’s time to jump in, feet first, to have the conversations that scare us. We need to hear unfamiliar and uncomfortable voices. We have to tell our own stories and our perspectives, even if we’re scared of criticism. We must dismantle the protections we’ve created so we can hear a truth we may have never considered … and be changed.

Because something big needs to change, but big changes start with little conversions: the sudden realization that the way I’ve always seen the world may not be the only way to see it; the dawning understanding that my experience is not universal; the peeling away of protections to welcome contrition when all along we’ve claimed no responsibility for the way things are.

All that is swirling around us now makes this is a critical juncture in the life of our country. We’re looking to our leaders to help us make real and substantive change, to unearth and dismantle structures that are rotting our society from the inside out. How are they going to do that? It has to begin with difficult conversations.

America needs a process like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a way to hear spoken the pain of racism in this country, to begin to say aloud the realities we live, to hear each others’ stories, to ask forgiveness for decades of racism and ethnic discrimination, and to begin to imagine a new future for our country. We owe it to our children, we owe it to each other, to tell the truth, to confess the considerable failure of our society, to have a national conversation that is deeply difficult.

Ours is a unique and beautiful country, a collection of disparate voices and perspectives that will either push us to band together with folks exactly like us, or do the hard work of hearing different voices, considering ways in which we might need to change, and then having the courage to make real and substantive shifts.

But none of that is going to happen until we start having some really difficult conversations.

This column was published first over at Baptist News Global. 

7 Comments on “Time For Some Hard Conversations

  1. Pastor Amy. Wondering if at some point Riverside (and Union) might take the lead and invite police into conversation.

  2. The politics of racism is so deeply embedded, we need a stick of ACME dynamite to get it unearthed. Those with power don’t want to live without it and those without power refuse to continue to live without it any more. The dynamite is already beginning to implode without lighting a match because the issue will not be so easily re-shelved as it has been so many times in the past.

    We can’t afford to let this dynamite implode uncontrolled. We need a solution better than die-ins and less precarious than new confrontations with law enforcement.

    A powerful boycott would certainly get EVERYBODY’s attention. The Civil Rights bus boycott caused a widespread economic implosion in downtown Birmingham, AL. The bus companies were NOT the only ones affected.

  3. One big (ironic) barrier to an American version of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is that white people would want to be the ones running it!

  4. I really appreciate that you referred to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In a book I’ve been recently reading, Integral Psychology, the author, Ken Wilber, refers to that commission. In the chapter, “The Self-Related Streams,” he points out that two participants, Don Beck and Christopher Cowan participated in the discussions by using principles of Spiral Dynamics to aid the process. A complex theory, it stresses that individuals (and groups) operate from differing levels of consciousness, levels that shape worldviews, values and needs. When people of varying levels try to speak to each other, most often they wind up arguing, even fighting, because the differences seem to be so incompatible. Beck and Cowan used their expertise to help people work through these levels, both in understanding their own perspectives better while respecting those of others. I share this because I do wonder if we at Riverside might want to learn a little more about Spiral Dynamics and/or the work of Ken Wilber so that we might be more capable of encouraging and shaping the flow of the conversations you desire so that authentic healing may emerge.
    Much peace,
    denise m. davis

  5. Loved this article, thought provoking, bold and leading the way to show our deep faith and hope for a moral and just nation.
    Thank you Pastor Amy!

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